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A Boy Fell, An Adult Hurried Over. Too Bad.

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Read Time: 2 minutes

Yesterday I watched as two kids – about 4 and 6 — were trying to swing from the rings at the playground.

The older one – a girl – kept jumping to try to reach the rings. When that didn’t work, she tried climbing up the structure to get to them. That didn’t work either. Her brother, meanwhile, climbed up the other side, where there was a platform, and managed to start hanging from the rings.

His sister then gave him a few pushes as he hung there, the way you’d push a swing. It seemed somewhere between helpful and the opposite.

After about three pushes, the boy fell. He started crying and the girl quickly squatted down to comfort him.

Dad to the…rescue?

Then the dad ran over.

He moved the girl away, and comforted the boy himself. Then he lifted the girl so she could reach the rings.

In that short moment, the adult stopped almost every developmentally rich thing that had been going on:

1 – The two kids trying to figure out how to make something happen — jumping, climbing, scrambling to reach the rings. Innovating. Failing. Innovating anew.

2 – The kids interacting.

3 – The older girl soothing her younger brother (even if she also made him fall. Life is complicated.)

4 – The two of them depending on their wits and each other.

Adult supervision = adult intervention.

With dad there, they lost all agency. Now someone was mediating the relationship. That same someone was helping them skip over the hard work — and sweet reward — of getting to the rings by dint of will, invention, and practice.

Was this a tragedy? Of course not. It’s kindness. It’s almost impossible NOT to jump in if you see a kid hurt, or struggling.

Which is why we can’t always be with them.

So much growth happens when kids have to figure things out for themselves — everything from how to reach a goal, to how to be a friend, to how to deal with frustration, disappointment, some pain. With adults so ever-present, kids are missing the “class time” that is unstructured, unsupervised free play. The time Mother Nature expected them to spend being scared, hurt, brilliant, creative, mean, collaborative — and basically learning to be successful humans. Which inevitably includes some setbacks.

That’s why at Let Grow we say that when adults step back, kids step up. (And sometimes fall.)

If you’d like to discuss this idea, or have witnessed something like this yourself, or just want some support as you loosen the reins, please head over to our Raising Independent Kids Facebook group page, which is here.  

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